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DON'T FEAR THE REVERB: Band & Player Bios

IN HAWAIIAN:

Donald = Konala
Ralph = Lalepa
Sonny = Koni

History of Don't Fear the Reverb - Don's point of view:

One June, my wife spotted an ad in the "musicians wanted" section of CITY BEAT, `a free press paper native to Cincinnati, Ohio. I answered the ad and had a reasonably good conversation with Ralph Sweat, the lead guitarist. I thought I would "for sure" get a call. a week or so went by and I followed up on the call and found that they were having their first practice with their new bass player that evening. really and truly interested in this project, I convinced Ralph to let me come over and audition on electric rhythm guitar. The practice went very well and I was accepted on rhythm guitar with provisions of learning 25 new songs for next week. I must have fooled them pretty good because eventually I became part of the band which at that time had no name.

I was now in guitar learning and buying mode and my wife, Beth, was in research mode. She was very busy finding out as much as she could about the music, the players, the surf culture, tiki life style, paradise moods of Martin denny, imagery of surf, sun, swimsuits and bikinis. I bought a Mosrite copy and a Hallmark Swept-Wing custom, built by the designers of the Mosrite. Together, Beth and I came up with two names: Don't Fear the Reverb was one name and the other was Surfin' Tiki Bandits. Later on I found out by plugging in the names into Google that one surf group had written a tune called Don't Fear the Reverb. Clever name isn't it? Names not being copyrightable except by service mark and trade mark, we kept with it. So the DFR moniker was chosen and the STB moniker will be used on another project.
We practiced hard and had our first public performance in August of 2005 at a street festival. Then, by that October our bass player quit just as we were about to perform a benefit concert at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park in Cincinnati. So.... another bass player was recruited and worked out well and more videos were made. But.... after performing a benefit for Muscular Dystrophy in the summer of 2006 - Jimmy Rogers bass player left the group. Knowing that I played pretty good bass, Ralph asked me to lay aside the rhythm guitar chores and see us through on bass. We have been busy building a trio sound, an image and a show; well rehearsed and at least two years in the proof.

RALPH SWEAT - LEAD GUITAR AND MENTOR

Ralph Sweat is the lead guitar player and over the years has developed a serious collection of instruments. New to the fold are his surf green Fender Jaguar with a mustang bridge, a VariAx Line 6 electro-acoustic, a Wilson Brothers white Mosrite copy and a souped up Fender Telecaster. Ralph is a serious student of the genre of surf, spy instrumentals and the instrumental music that made spaghetti westerns great. He is also a student of flamenco guitar. Ralph also lives eats and breaths the lifestyle of surf guitar.

Ralph Sweat is the lead guitar player and over the years has developed a serious collection of instruments. New to the fold are his surf green Fender Jaguar with a mustang bridge, a VariAx Line 6 electro-acoustic, a Wilson Brothers white Mosrite copy and a souped up Fender Telecaster. Ralph is a serious student of the genre of surf, spy instrumentals and the instrumental music that made spaghetti westerns great. He is also a student of flamenco guitar. Ralph also lives eats and breaths the lifestyle of surf guitar.
With 27 years of playing guitar Ralph claims his strength is his desire to continually improve and learn. Having played nearly all genres of music, Ralph will tell you surf is by far the most exciting. He feels surf tells stories of romance, danger, adventure, beauty and tragedy, all without singing a word. While Ralph’s guitars and amps are vintage equipment, he believes his most creative playing lies ahead. He also enjoys hunting and working out, proving that 50 is nifty.

SONNY SWEAT - DRUMMER

Sonny Sweat was born in the back of a 1946 Ford woody surf wagon but, if that wasn't perfect enough he was conceived in the back of a 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. This cosmic birthright , along with having Sandy Nelson's "Teen Beat" played endlessly while he came up from the crib; has led him on the tribal trail of being a spectacular drummer. And, all this at the tender age of 19. As talented as he is, the girls are most impressed by his muscular arms and the fact that he looks good without a shirt.
Sonny Sweat began playing drums at the age of 9 and began playing publicly in church at 11. Sonny has been performing professionally since the age of 17. Currently he uses DDrums with Yamaha stage custom hardware, Tama kick pedals and top shelf Zildjian cymbals.
At the age of 13 Sonny started studying drums under the watchful eye of Jason Bruns. With his master’s in percussion, Jason stressed to Sonny the importance of solid fundamentals and soon moved him to complicated drum set beats and techniques, which today Sonny plays with impressive and uncommon ability. Having the heart of a servant Sonny continues to play drums during worship at his church. Currently a student at U.C., Sonny also has a great sense of humor which he uses to keep the “ladies” smiling at Llanfair Retirement Home where he works.

DON SCHOTT - BASS AND RHYTHM GUITAR

THIS IS THE MOST FUN even if I am lumbered as the bass player again.


Don Schott - Producer- Musician-Audio Video Engineer

Don Schott started playing music as a student at nine years of age though there are pictures of him playing without tutorial at ages 3 and 4. His first instrument was accordion and voice study was also a part of his grade school music curriculum. Wanting to get into the school band, he traded the accordion for clarinet even though he thought he was more interested in drums and piano ( After all there was a piano in the home, an age when having a piano in the home preceded that of having a T.V.) because he constantly found himself pounding out rhythms with his hands. He studied this reed instrument for about a year but was not thrilled about his post in the school band. There was NO Stan Kenton material and NO R&B. He thought, "why did I choose clarinet? I could have chosen tenor sax or gone the way of an Eric Dolphy and taken on flute as well."

Teenage years always take on so many different paths and trial and error with lots of trial and much error, but you learn from your paths and mistakes. In 1963 his taste for R&B and Jazz was on the rise as well as the finer forms of
rock and Roll. Folk music was big and music production, even for Rock N' Roll was a high art. The Beach Boys and Frankie Vallei and the Four Seasons were right up there with MOTOWN and then in February of 1964 something happened that made Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa old fashioned. the BEATLES hit hard and Don along with 14,962 other young men decided that guitar was the way of the future , the "way to go". An "f" hole acoustic was passed on through the family and it, for learning was the best of several worlds. Learning chords, motifs, Beatles. Simon & Garfunkel and Dylan on a "Jazz" style guitar (no pick-up), learning the songs from the Ventures and wining a copy of the "Surfaris' Scatter Shield" from a local radio station set Don on the coarse for playing surf guitar with no amp, no tremolo, and no reverb. Needles to say this direction was TOO new and the band concept was not buying it. So, in 1966, a SUPRO pocket bass was gifted to him and bass guitar became the focus of the band style while guitar efforts were confined to that "jazzy arch top" but the love of playing strings was firmly a way of life at the age of 12 and has lasted to this day. Bill, Don's dad, was a radio and T.V. repair man. Television was 99% black and white in 1965. Don wanted to play Ventures, Byrds and Beatles so they built and amp (several times) from old radio and phonograph amps and also a make shift P.A. for singing. The speaker didn't even have a box at first. Two Telefunken microphones were the vocal address mics and taped onto a stand as there were no mic clips for these odd mics.

So, in high school, Don's first band was called "the Agents" (more specifically the Agents of Knight) because spy music and movies were a big thing. The Agents played one school dance at the old grade school (yea, they did that back then) and maybe that was not even that group. it is really hard to say if they even made it out of the living room. "We had to practice in the living room because I was using the plug into my dad's newly built stereo for my bass amp at the time. There were several concoctions of bands in high school. Somewhere in there Don built a Heathkit guitar amp (soldering is good) and that was traded for a VOX ESSEX bass amp, then after finding that the ESSEX was not reliable, it was traded for a BALDWIN. "It had some guts, kind of like a Fender Bassman. The high school band were always wanting for equipment. A lot of band never really made it out of rehearsal or got a name. There was one that played mostly Allman Brothers, one that played a few high school dances doing Buffalo Springfield, Grand Funk and Love's "7+ 7 Is".

After high school Don backed up two other acts. Eric Sylvester Zwertcheck was a local folk artist at the top of his game. "We opened for Don McLean when American Pie first came out and headlined a few balladeer folk concerts when Rocky Raccoon and the BAND were crowd pleasers. These were my first appearances playing large 5000+ crowds. It was my first and most memorable case of the butterflies. Later on Eric quit that quartet (trio sometimes) and wrote a popular catholic folk mass (my first album credit) and left Cincinnati to join Mary Travers when she broke away from Peter, Paul and Mary."

Then came the Arnold Christian Group. It had a good run playing clubs like the "Ces't la Vie" on Vine Street and and in the hippie chic Mount Adams' scene (remember "Thrill on the Hill"?) of pubs and society soiree. "We played soirees at the ROOKWOOD POTTERY and PLAY HOUSE IN THE PARK and SEASONGOOD PAVILION in Eden Park. We were rock we were Jazz. We listened to Exuma, Rolland Kirk and Neil Young and all things jazz. We played mostly private parties after that. A crazy wild bittersweet relationship and experience and my first inter-racial group."

In 1971-72 there was a jazz group. It was pretty cool and played the university of Cincinnati and the Family Owl. it had Tom Nairne on piano keys, Neal Palmisano on drums. It was more of an experimental jazz group and it also featured Earl Chambers on flute and conga and Eugene Goss. There was a guy named Sarge that played Sax, a friend of Eugene's.

The jazz market waned and times of rough confusion followed. By 1974, though Don was busy recording recitals of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music students and faculty (many of which have since joined the symphony) along with park concerts of big band jazz, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for WGUC the big classical station in town. Many of the shows were aired on NPR. Under this stereo classical radio station's employ he also ran the daily midnight to six A.M. broadcast shift. But on Saturday night's it was 2 hours of the famed Oscar Treadwell Jazz program. There probably was never a man alive who knew more than O.T. about jazz and it's history. Working as engineer for that show was an entertaining education. That stint at WGUC put Don in touch with the late Paul Delph (Mickey, Mickey yer so fine - Toni Basil) the wizard keyboard player. Classically trained he could play the Chic Corea parts and the Joe Zawinul parts and the Herbie Hancock parts. Don introduced Paul to John Goodsall of Brand X they stuck a chord playing on many session dates in L.A. Don and Paul played recorded and experimented in new sounds and directions but in 1978, Don's job changed and Paul joined a local rock group known as "Krackerjack". Don started working in record distribution for Handelman. Climbing up the ladder had weird effects as 1978-79 are the years that the record industry skyrocketed and like a bottle rocket, came back to reality crashing, burning. a lot was learned and Don was in a different city each day but it became a day job and that period was highlighted by studies at the newly established "Recording Workshop" studying multi-track recording under Gary Platt who later worked with Adrian Belew of King Crimson. Gary the "Virginian" was there at the second advanced course at the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio. That guy later left and helped found the Full Sail student setting in Orlando. Florida.

So, after Handelman, there was QCA Recording and Record Pressing. Don was hired as assistant plant manager but there was a time when he was their sales representative and broke sales records even for some traditionally pretty slow months. He had made the typically lame income months of January, February and March to have the same sales income as June, July, August and September. While he was at QCA he was head of quality control, mastered many,many lacquer sides of LPs and 45s and ran many sessions in the 2 twenty four track studios. Don at this time began his own label and produced and engineered many of his own sessions. The QCA period is also one where Don joined up with Ooh La La and the Greasers. They are still functioning and so have a performing history as long as the Grateful Dead. Like the name implies, they are a recap of the 50's and 60's hits in review and costume. Don produced their first 45 RPM on EYE RECORDS; his label. While with them he got to play behind Freddy Cannon and most memorably Bo Diddley of which Don fondly remembers spending hours in the green room talking with him in between shows. this was a very well respected group and on several occasions drew audiences over 1200 and a couple of soft ticket events over 10,000.

While with Ooh La La & the Greasers; Don founded a blues group with a top local DJ named Michael Luczak (guitar-vocals), Frank Lynch on Harmonica and rotating the drum chair with Steve Sailer and Doug Perry, both drummers for what may have been at that time the post popular band in town - the MODULATORS. The FREE DRINKS BAND was one of maybe two blues bands in Cincinnati at the time, The other one was BIG JOE DUSKIN with whom Don sat in with occasionally. Don pulled in both Ooh La La and Free Drinks into radio station WAIF for a radio broadcast event where both groups were featured in the same time slot. Tapes still exist of that memorable performance.

By the summer of 1984, Don pulled out of QCA and Ooh La LA & the Greasers and the FREE DRINKS v1 had lost their drummer to a new HOT band in town the WARSAW FALCONS; a group Don later became press agent for. At that time a "Parties & Events Band" which was working regular had an opening. NIGHT WATCH played in 3 directions: A-Train style Jazz for dinner music; A more contemporary mix of Jazz and light pop for the parents or oldsters; and final "Rock On" set performing todays dance floor favorites for the high strung young and some young at heart. The ensemble was great. The pianist was great. Then the leader, Bill Jetter decided to get married and quit the group. Some recordings were made at QCA.

Don joined SILVERWINGS with Kern Mize, rhythm guitar; Danny Blair,lead vocals and sax; and Mark Knecht, keys and vocals. This ensemble, though it had rotating lead guitar and drummer chairs was quite amazing and, at first, worked frequently. For the first year or so they worked a lot and Don took a job selling radios and high end stereos. One great system went into the car of Vince "Cin-O" Calloway of "No Parking on the Dance Floor" fame. Another was when Pete Rose hit over the 1492 and broke the record. Don put a Blaupunkt Stereo and a Blaupunkt cell phone into his new grey market Porsche. 13 years were spent in SILVERWINGS.

There was a FREE DRINKS v2 established during the time of SILVERWINGS. Paul Milazzo on guitar, Rick Howell on guitar and harmonica and Ric Lonow on drums. There were momentary guitar chairs with Dave Heil and Ed Hundley. It lasted almost 2 years. Ric got a job with the FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS - Sneaky Pete was still in the band. Later, Ric left them to join the Bellamy Brothers on tour and so relocated in Nashville. Don was still producing and recording other bands at this time so once leaving radio sales, he took off to Memphis, Tennessee to produce an album for songwriter JACKSON HAMLIN Ric Lonow was hired and flew in to take the drum spot and Don played bass. Others hired were local Memphis session monsters. The studio was Lin Lou, the last studio Ricky Nelson recorded in before he went down just a short time before.

The next big turn was that of being a salesman/promotions director/ event producer for the legendary and historically great JAZZ RADIO WNOP AM STEREO. Don produced, recorded and ran live sound for a six week run of 3 to six acts per night MICHELOB JAZZ SEARCH 1986 live at the HYATT. The live acts were recorded and re-broadcast. The winner of the local event was Eugene Goss (the old friend) There were numerous other events like this. Another memorable one was a two day stage in Eden Park, Jazz Blues stage for A DAY IN EDEN 1988. Buddy Roger's Music stores provided the P.A. for this "Day in Eden" and Don rounded up the acts and ran the P.A., recorded the show, sent the signal over phone lines for live broadcast on WNOP. Both Blues and Jazz acts were hired. A special WNOP ALL STARS was formed with (Thelonious Monk Piano Prize winner) Bill Cuneliff on keys, Jimmy McGary on sax among others.

By 1990, Don had acquired his own studio space at 4046 Hamilton Avenue in Northside. Studios on the same floor were maintained by A&M/CHECKERED PAST recording artists the ASS PONIES, SUB-POP, CBS and ELEKTRA recording artists the AFGHAN WHIGS, RUBY VALLEJOS and also THE FAIRMONT GIRLS. Don's studio was the largest. There, EYE RECORDS was firmly established and the first digital recording equipment was acquired. Here the Association of Performing and Recording Artists (a 501-C-3 non-profit corporation which Don founded in 1988) gained a permanent address for operations and also many recording projects were started. From here the list grows long rapidly.